Yesterday, I was absolutely excited that I was able to witness the Nalukataq. You're probably asking yourself, "What the heck is a Nalukataq?". The Nalukataq is a festival held after each successful whaling season. The men are allowed to hunt the whales using native techniques such as seal-skin boats and harpoons. Nothing like you see on the TV show Whale Wars. The festival is a ceremony giving thanks for the successful whaling season as well as it is also the time where the frozen whale meat called quaq and the whale skin and blubber called muktuk are distributed to the families of the whaling crew. The festival is held in Barrow each June and all of the whaling crews' families were present. There were many children of different ages playing in the dirt and many of the families were in native apparel. On pallets in the center there were pieces of the butchered whale and people could go and cut a piece off and eat the blubber. The parts of the whale that were on the pallets was one of the big fins (you can see the ball joint bone - like your shoulder joint - that goes into the socket on the whale) and also the tail.
Whale parts you were supposed to cut a piece of blubber off and eat it raw! Notice the round bone for the ball-and-socket joint of the large fin.
Tale of the whale as if you were looking down the back of the whale. Pieces have already been cut off of both sides.
The whaling crew and families allow outsiders to try the muktuk, but the quaq is reserved for the whaling crews' families. Even though I am a pretty picky eater, I generally have to try the local fare. Last year while I was in Namibia I tried shark, zebra, and kudu. So, I definitely had to try the muktuk. I am not a big seafood person to begin with so this was really stretching my comfort zone. I took a big bite and tried to bite down. However, the whale blubber was so hard, tough, raw, and salty that I took a small bite out of the end of the piece and put the big remaining chunk in Ted's pickled muktuk bag. The piece I did chew I swallowed right away and it kept my stomach in knots for most of the rest of the night (I think I can still taste and smell the blubber). The highlight of the Nalukataq is a blanket toss. However, Ted was leaving and a new grad student, Kim Miller, was arriving at the airport so we could not stay. There is another Nalukataq tomorrow and we are planning to return for the blanket toss and the native singing and dancing.
Am I really going to eat whale?!?
My first attempt at trying whale. What a big bite!
It was too hard to bite down, so I took a small bite off of the end. My first and last taste of muktuk - whale blubber! Yuck!
Today Elliot and I went out to the Ancient basin (over 3,000 years old) and finished taking the initial readings for that site. While we were out at the site we saw a Brant (type of goose) protecting its nest and there is a picture below.
This bird, called a Brant, was guarding its nest by our ancient basin
Today was a pretty overcast and cloudy day, so there was no sun to keep us warm and the wind was blowing fiercely across the tundra. The winds here in Barrow are what make this area so cold. My fingers were bitterly cold today and I had on 3 layers of gloves! The rest of my body was warm, but my fingers were frozen! This area is so flat that the wind just picks up and is merciless! The town has even erected HUGE snow fences around the city to help keep some of the snow from blowing into the city. The snow fences here are at least twice as high if not higher than the snow fences you generally see in the lower 48 states.
Look how big the ripples are on this small pond. Now imagine how cold that wind feels as it is going through every layer of clothing you have on!
HUGE snow fence used to help keep some of the snow from blowing into the town of Barrow
Fact of the Day
Yesterday's Fact of the Day Answer: If a drop of oil were placed at the beginning of the 800-mile long Alaskan Pipeline, how long would it take to make it to the end? 5.5 days How close was your guess?
Today's Trivia: More than what percent of the world's active glaciers are in Alaska?
This whale bone arch is in the center of the town of Barrow - overlooking the Arctic Ocean. Notice the 2 whaling boats on each side; they would have been covered with seal skins.
Inuit Word of the Day
Yesterday's Word: Aluut = Spoon! Hint: It may be silver and you may use it to help you eat. Did you get it right?
Today's Word: Aakka - Hint: It's a 2-letter word that no one likes to hear! What is the word of the day?
Please take 2 seconds and reply with your guesses to the fact of the day or Inuit word of the day in the "Ask the Team" section link below: